26th Sunday in Ordinary Times
Ezekiel 18:25-28; Philippians 2:1-11; Gospel of Matthew 21:28-32
Accept God’s Invitation today . . . and Never be the Same!

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of Good Shepherd, on 1st October 2017

Today’s Gospel “Parable of the Two Sons,” that we just heard proclaimed is about Obedience to God’s Will and Repentance.  The “First Son’s Response to his Father’s request to work in the vineyard was, “No, I will not go.”  However, upon further reflection on his response, he “repented” and eventually obeyed his father’s wishes.  As for the “Second Son,” on the contrary, he immediately responded, “Yes, certainly I will go.”  However, for whatever reasons he had, he eventually did not turn up; and thus, did not obey his father’s wishes. 

Jesus presented the parable to point to the reality of the “tax collectors and prostitutes” who were public sinners, but upon further reflection on their lives, repented, and turned back to living in God’s love and ways.  The “first son” in the parable represents these people.  However, as for the “second son,” Jesus was presenting the parable as reprimanding the chief priests and elders who presented and professed themselves to be knowledgeable and virtuous persons of God, but were actually wearing masks and living a hypocritical life. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, before we fall into the temptation of thinking and feeling like the “second son,” I believe Jesus, in today’s Gospel would wish that we first admit to the truth that, if we reflect on our own lives for a moment, we will realise that there are times in our lives when we are each guilty of being both the first and the second sons in the parable.  All of us are imperfect and we are sinners. 

In all that I have said so far, I think all of us without exception would have to accept as the truth.  However, let us also take note that one of the biggest temptations that we have is happening in our sub-conscious mind.  Sub-consciously, the greatest temptation, if we are not alert and not discerning enough is to have the immediate reaction that, “I am not like the chief priests and the elders.” 

If we should have such thoughts and temptations, actually what is happening is that, we are falling into the common perception that other people are greater sinners than us, and so, we are okay.  If we fall into such temptations of viewing others as greater sinners than us, then we can also easily fall into a complacent way of living our faith.  Obviously, such attitudes will hamper the growth in our faith and our relationship with Jesus.  We can easily drift into living a routine and superficial faith, and convince ourselves that we are “holier than others” and so, feel that we do not really need to go for “Confession” and seek the needed reconciliation with God and one another.  And if this should be happening to us, then actually, in many ways, are we not developing the attitudes of the “second son” which represents the chief priests and elders that Jesus is precisely challenging us to face? 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, the great gift of the “first son” is his openness to confront the truth of his life.  It was with such openness of heart that the Holy Spirit was able to move him to the needed conversion, and drew him to a newer level of greater authenticity and deeper union with Jesus.  If we are each more open and resolved to move to accept Jesus’ invitation to a live a “holier” life and deeper union with Him, like the “first son” in today’s Gospel, we would then need to focus our attention and channel our energies on nurturing our relationship with Jesus by seeking and living His Father’s Will, and loving in His Ways.

One of my favourite hymns that captures this truth of living in God’s Love and Ways is the hymn, “The Summons”, by John L. Bell and Graham Maule. This hymn which very beautifully captures the soft-inner stirrings of the Spirit in each of our hearts, if we were to listen attentively enough.  And so, this is how God our Father invites us to live His Will personally.  

Will you come and follow me, if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know, and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown?
Will you let my name be known?
Will you let my life be grown in you, and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind, if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind, and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare, should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you, and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see, if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free, and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you, and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide, if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside, and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found
to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you, and you in me?

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the last stanza of the hymn articulates the possible response that God our Father longs to hear from us, and this is what it says,
Lord Your summons echoes true, when You but call my name.
Let me turn and follow You, and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go, where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in You, and You in me.

My sisters and brothers, time does not permit me to enter into are as in the case of the “first son” in today’s Gospel, but instead consciously and conscientiously nurture our relationship with Jesus, then we will be and become the face of Jesus that inspires people to the Truth of the Gospel that offers Eternal Life.  We will also become the heart of Jesus that forgives and heals the woundedness of sinners; the arms of Jesus that embrace those who are suffering from loneliness and rejection; the feet of Jesus that seeks those who are lost and are living in the darkness and misery of sin and destruction, and indeed, the whole person of Jesus that brings lasting Peace, global Justice and genuine Hope of Christ’s Salvation which is offered to all peoples regardless of their race, rank and religion.

At the end of the day, as in the Parable of the Two Sons in today’s Gospel, will our answer be like the first son that asserts, “No, Lord, I will NOT DO Your Will, but in the end, repent and become faithful to God’s Will?” Or would be like the second son, immediately response, “Yes, Lord I WILL DO Your Will, but in the end, NOT do the Father’s Will . . .?”  The choice is ours to make . . .


Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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